The Sheep Are Loose!
Updated: Aug 23, 2022
These were the words I excitedly heard from the girls as we were packing up our campsite. Before the weather got too hot, we took a weekend to enjoy the springtime and camp. It wasn’t glamping, but it was glorious! Both Naomi and I grew up tent camping, so we were delighted to have a nice weekend outdoors. One of the highlights was that there was a small flock of sheep in a temporary pen adjacent to our campsite. The twinkling of their small bells was comforting and very “Alpine”.
But they had escaped! In their pursuit of fresh grass to eat, they knocked over their temporary fence. Their demeanor changed once they were loose; much more skittish and now in danger of wandering into the busy road. You could hear the tempo and cadence of their bells change, even if you could not see them. Unfortunately, there was no shepherd to corral them back in. They were exploring, and generally getting into mischief, but there was a busy road nearby.
The girls and I decided to go over and try to keep them contained until the shepherd arrived. In our “can do” American spirit, we knew we would be able to get them back in their pen. How hard could it be? Impossible, it turns out! They were skittish upon seeing us, as we were foreigners and they were unprotected. If we tried to herd them one way, they zigged and zagged to escape our best efforts. We waved, hooted, cajoled and all tried all manners of convincing.
Didn’t they know we were trying to keep them safe?! It was exhausting and for the better part of an hour we tried in vain. I could feel the desperation and just hoped someone had alerted their keeper. Several times we had other people join us. We thought we just needed more people because more is always better, right? No, that also was an ineffective strategy. One-by-one, they got frustrated and left.
Finally, an old Citroën car bounced into the field, too fast and almost cartoonish. A wiry middle aged woman sprung from the car with her dog.. She took command of the situation and I have no doubt this is a common scenario for her. The sheep immediately took notice, they knew her, and she knew them. She called commands to the dog and he responded immediately. To watch them work was spellbinding and within a few minutes she had them all corralled peacefully in a new area. Finally, she quickly reset up the temporary pen. How could she so easily do what we could not? It was an amazing testimony to the intimate relationship between the shepherd and their flock.
How did we encounter God’s Word in this narrative?
We often read bible stories, but the context doesn’t match our current modern lives. It takes an experience like ours to bring the stories to life. The truth of God’s word becomes crystal clear when we not only understand it, but live the experience.
In our vain attempts, the insanity of the ideas we had to help the sheep was comical. Every day we try to live under our own authority, which often ends in frustration or failure. Just as we saw an immediate change in the sheep when the shepherd arrived, the same can be said as we submit ourselves to the authority of Jesus (the good shepherd). Just like the sheep we saw, those who follow Jesus know his voice. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10 v 27
What is the good news for us in this story?
Psalm 23 is probably the most famous verse that correlates the Lord to a Shepherd, written by King David, who himself was a shepherd in his youth! He knew intimately well, like our unnamed lady, the intimate trust and sacred bond between a flock and their keeper.
‘He MAKES me lie down in green pastures, LEADS me besides still waters and He RESTORES my soul.” Psalm 23 v 1-3
With the abundant freedom, danger and fear felt by the sheep, their shepherd MADE them a safe space to be protected within a fence. They had no need to wander, as their needs were fully met. She LED them to a place away from the road, the immediate danger they faced. Their frantic bells calmed once they were again under her command- they were RESTORED in their confidence in their surroundings. The peaceful twinkling of the bells which we had enjoyed all weekend had returned. Our presence no longer agitated them, as they knew they were safe under her watchful and loving care.
The great news is that Jesus is our shepherd, and he can be fully trusted. He knows us by name, and seeks to bring us into his flock. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10 v3
I was absolutely stunned at the way the sheep changed when she arrived, as they KNEW she was going to provide for them. The girls and I stood in wonder as these events unfolded. What a blessing to see their obedience. A powerful narrative for God to offer us as a testimony to how He loves and cares for us, His flock.